Reservation
Representational image

By: Ami Nathung

In simple terms, reservation in India is about reserving access to seats in the government jobs, educational institutions, and even legislatures to certain sections of the population. Reservation in India is a government policy, backed by the Indian Constitution (by means of various amendments).

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The two main aims to provide reservation as per the Constitution of India are :

Advancement of Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) OR any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (Eg: OBC) OR economically weaker sections (EWS) – Article 15 (4), Article 15 (5), and Article 15 (6), and adequate representation of any backward class of citizens OR economically weaker sections (EWS) in the services under the State. – Article 16 (4) and Article 16 (6).

Through the reservation granted to SC and ST, these people get various jobs that were not given to them earlier, and hence, they are now able to buy various goods and services through which they ensure better life for their children also, which, in turn, provides a boost to the country’s economy.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been, for centuries, the most neglected, marginalized and exploited people.

The scourge of untouchability was a blot on the Indian civilization. Despite the constitutional declaration of its abolition under Article 17 of the Constitution, it persists in many subtle and not so subtle ways. It has been an unmitigated tale of prejudice, discrimination and exploitation.

At stake, in the ultimate analysis, is the very integrity and survival of Indian society. Without transforming vertical inequality in society into horizontal equality, democracy will have no meaning.

If the law is not in favour of disadvantaged, they will never achieve true equality of opportunity and freedom of choice. The nation’s unity will be at risk. In some form or the other, overt or covert, in many subtle ways, the prejudice against these weaker sections persists.

This is perhaps because of the mindset of certain sections of the society. Indeed to refer to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes* as mere ‘sections of society’ is a grave misuse of words.

They together constitute the vast and not merely a section. The recurring themes that, unfortunately, have been dominating the debate on reservation is – ‘Could the rights of individual be put at risk in the interest of a disadvantaged group? Does it amount to reverse discrimination? Is it acceptable to require an individual to make the sacrifice?

These questions which dominate the debate are greatly misplaced. The injustices heaped on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes for no reason other than the pure accident of birth have few parallels in the history of civilisation.

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